By LINDA BEHRENS
Three recent high school graduates were chosen by the administration at their respective schools to receive the Bishop’s Discipleship Award.
The award is given for exhibiting Catholic identity in knowledge, attitude and behavior both within school and in the wider community.
The awards were presented by Bishop Michael McGovern at their combined Baccalaureate Mass, held May 3 at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Belleville.
Sabrina, age 18 from O’Fallon, was recognized for being active in her faith not only at her parish, but also for four years at Althoff Catholic High School in Belleville, says John Bouc, theology teacher and campus minister at Althoff.
“Sabrina was an extraordinary minister of holy communion and was one of only three seniors specially selected to the ministry of sacristan for the school,” Bouc says.
She volunteered at the Luke 18 retreat at St. Clare Grade School in O’Fallon, helping eighth graders prepare for confirmation and high school.
“As a sophomore and junior, I gave talks at the retreats about peer pressure. I said they should be strong in their faith,” Sabrina says. “If they have doubts, that’s okay, but they will grow stronger.”
After school, Sabrina works at the extended care program at St. Clare Grade School.
“We help the students with their homework,” she says. “I like helping with the religion class homework, especially answering their questions.”
When asked about what she felt were the benefits of her Catholic faith, she says her faith gives her a support system.
“In the middle of the school year, I gave a speech on my struggles with my faith, and how I kept praying about it and asked questions about faith to any of my teachers and faithful role models,” Sabrina says.
“Now, I am stronger and more confident in my beliefs and am not afraid to ask questions when I don’t understand my faith,” she says.
She adds that her Catholic education showed her how to explain her Catholic faith in a more knowledgeable light.
Sabrina will be majoring in molecular and cellular biology at Purdue University in the fall.
Dennis Litteken, principal at Mater Dei Catholic High School in Breese, says that Gavynn Baer, age 18 from St. Rose, has been very active with the youth faith program at Mater Dei and in his parish and community of St. Rose.
He has volunteered for four years to help set up for all the all-school Masses in the school gym as well as other campus ministry programs. He also has served as a peer tutor, school ambassador and a mass server in his parish.
“I try to do what’s best around me and to look out for others,” Gavynn says. “I am strong in my faith. I try to be kind and do what’s right.”
The grade schools in St. Rose, Carlyle, Germantown, Bartelso, Centralia and Damiansville join together to offer their Luke 18 retreat for eighth graders. Gavynn has served as a group leader.
“I would give talks about faith and how it is part of our lives,” he says. “This helps them get ready for confirmation.”
He adds that he has given other talks about his faith at grade schools.
“It’s important to learn who Jesus is and what faith is,” he says. “I can apply my education in my life, use what I’ve learned in the real world and help others.”
One of the ways he currently plans to help others is by serving as an emergency medical technician (EMT). He has one more test to pass.
“Gavynn has a great attitude and is thoughtful and mindful of others around him,” Litteken says. “He is the type of young adult our church needs to continue to carry out the Church’s mission.”
Gavynn will be studying speech pathology at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville.
Faith Miskell, age 18 from Waterloo, participated in many of the same activities at Gibault Catholic High School in Waterloo as Sabrina and Gavynn did at their schools and communities, including participating in school Masses, volunteering at retreats, and joining pro-life clubs and campus ministry.
The Luke 18 retreat for seventh and eighth graders at Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Waterloo is held every two years. Faith has served as a group leader.
“I would lead sharing and discussions with my groups,” Faith says. “This year I gave a speech at the retreat on hurting, making up and learning how to forgive.”
At the freshmen retreat at school, some seniors, including Faith, lead small group discussions about the talks that were given and their faith lives in general.
“I grew up going to church every week with my parents in a strong Catholic family, and I participated in youth group at Ss. Peter and Paul,” Faith says.
She says that by attending a Catholic school, she could be open about her faith and attend religion class, retreats and Mass.
“Through these years, I formed a strong faith connection. This is something I hope to continue in college by connecting with the Newman Center.”
Faith will attend Missouri University of Science and Technology for mechanical engineering.
Michelle Miskell, Faith’s mother, is the religion teacher at Gibault High School.
“Faith takes seriously her commitment to faithfully serve,” Miskell says, “and Gibault fosters an environment that encourages just that. Her father and I could not be more grateful and proud.”
She adds, “There are many worthy recipients at Gibault, living out their mission to love and serve in the name of Jesus Christ. We can look forward to some amazing things from these Gibault Catholic High School seniors.”
And the same is true at Althoff Catholic High School and Mater Dei Catholic High School.
“May God bless them all to be the light of Christ as they move forward in their adventures,” Miskell says.